Today’s New Oldie fits squarely into the category called Answer Songs on MusicMaster Oldies. This is a parody of the 1960 Johnny Horton hit, North To Alaska.
Johnnie Allan was born John Allan Guillot on 10 March 1938 in Rayne, Louisiana. He was the son of a sharecropper, so he and his brother worked on the family farm. His Great Grand Uncle was Joseph Falcon, a legendary Cajun accordionist. The young Cajun sold seeds to earn money to buy his first guitar. His mama taught him how to play it. By the time he was 13, he got together with a classmate named Walter Mouton and started a band called The Scott Playboys, playing pure Cajun music at clubs around Louisiana, like the Colonial Club in Esterwood. He got hold of a pedal steel guitar and taught himself how to play it, eventually earning him an invitation to join another Cajun group called Lawrence Walker And The Wandering Aces. He was only 16 years old. He was bitten by the rock and roll bug after watching Elvis Presley perform live on the Louisiana Hayride show. He and a couple of band mates split from Lawrence Walker’s band to form their own band as The Johnnie Allan And Krazy Kats. Johnnie’s background in Cajun music, blended with his new love for rock and roll and rockabilly music, helped pioneer a brand new musical style that became known as Swamp Pop.
His first record was called Lonely Days Lonely Nights on the Jin label with Floyd Soileau who, as a junior in high school, was already doing a Cajun music show on KVPI in Ville Platte, Louisiana. Johnnie followed this up with another single called Letter Of Love, both records enjoying regional success along the Gulf coast. After graduating from high school in 1956, Johnnie attended the University of Southern Louisiana in Lafayette. He graduated in 1961 and began working as a school teacher. But, just six weeks into that job, he was called up in the National Guard and shipped off to Berlin to prevent the Soviet Union from cutting off Allied troops as the Berlin Wall was being built. When he returned to Louisiana, a song he recorded with the Krazy Kats before leaving called Your Picture was getting local airplay on the radio. Johnnie hooked up with promoter Bill Hall and “Crazy Cajun” record producer Huey Meaux in an attempt to capitalize on the local success of Lonely Days Lonely Nights. The song was reissued on MGM 12799, but it just missed getting enough national attention to make the Billboard charts. He tried again with a song called Unfaithful One on the Viking label. When this didn’t work out either, he went back to work with Floyd Soileau.
In the late 1960’s, Johnnie took two years off to complete his education, earning a master’s degree at McNeese State University in Lake Charles. He became the principal at Acadian Elementary School in Houma, Louisiana, until his retirement in 1981. A Cajun accordionist named Bessyl Duhon persuaded him to revive the Krazy Kats in 1970, resulting in a Swamp Pop version of Chuck Berry’s Promised Land. He and Floyd filled the clubs across southern Louisiana. Johnnie loved to collect photographs and write about the Southern Louisiana and East Texas Cajun Country music scene. He wrote a book called Memories, A Pictorial History of South Louisiana Music 1920s-1980s. Later, he wrote a second book called Born To Be A Loser which told the story of a cult favorite singer and songwriter named Jimmy Donley. Last I heard, Johnnie settled in Lafayette, Louisiana, and hosted a Swamp Pop music show on local KRVS Radio for several years.
Now let’s test your ability to understand Cajun-English! I’ll get you started by telling you that the first line of this song is, “South to Louisiana, to the town of Thibodaux.” That town, by the way, is located about 50 miles south of Baton Rouge, and 40 miles west of New Orleans, smack in the heart of Cajun country on the Louisiana Bayou. The lady he’s singing about is Norine Collins and she still lives in Jeanerette, Louisiana today.
Here’s South To Louisiana by Johnnie Allan And Krazy Kats on Viking 1015 from 1961:
Here’s the flip side, a nice Country tune called If You Do Dear:
This song appeared on an album in 1964 on Jin 4001, along with several other of his previous recordings.
This may sound a bit strange, but if you really want to have some fun, trace the eastern border between Louisiana and Mississippi on a map. That has to be the most complicated state border in the United States. It wanders back and forth across the river, looping deep into Mississippi to capture a couple of nice lakes here and there!
You’ll hear music from every part of the United States on MusicMaster Oldies, along with tunes from all over the world. Tune in and enjoy the trip!